Accreditation: methodology and site visits. Online newsletter article in elButlletí, April 2015
Workshop The accreditation of recognised degree programmes, 28 April 2014 at the UAB
The VSMA framework: methodology and benchmarks
Accreditation is the establishment, by way of a site visit, that the study programme is being delivered as planned according to validation (the ex ante accreditation stage).
All recognised degree courses must undergo accreditation within six years of validation (or within six years of a previous accreditation), in the case of Bachelor’s and doctoral/PhD degrees, and four years in the case of Master’s degrees.
Site visits for degree course programmes that are to undergo the accreditation process are planned jointly by the universities and AQU Catalunya on an annual basis.
The accreditation process consists of two stages: the site visit and accreditation:
The accreditation process of Bachelor and Master’s degrees is described in the Guide to the accreditation of recognised Bachelor and Master’s degree programmes (October 2016).
The guide is set out in four sections: the first is an introduction to the legal framework and European standards; the second contains a description of the administrative procedures and documents required for the review; the key elements of the process are contained in section three, which specifies the assessment standards and criteria, and section four, which gives the rubric charts.
The accreditation guide
The assessment standards and criteria correspond to six dimensions that are connected with the prior procedures of validation and monitoring.
These dimensions deal with:
- the quality of the study programme,
- the relevance of the public information,
- the efficacy of the programme's internal quality assurance system,
- the suitability to teach of staff on the programme,
- the efficiency of learning support systems, and
- the quality of the programme outcomes.
Three additional optional dimensions are proposed in the assessment model:
- entry into work and employment outcomes,
- research-teaching linkages, and
This document gives recommendations for the evidence and indicators to be included in the self-assessment report in the procedure involving the accreditation of undergraduate/Bachelor and Master's programmes.
The site visit process, the aim of which is continuous improvement, involves the on-site verification of the running and delivery of a degree programme, the findings of which are drawn up by the external review panel in the site-visit report.
The site visit serves to collect evidence for accreditation, which is an administrative process, the outcome of which is either favourable or unfavourable.
Site visits are planned jointly by AQU Catalunya and the universities on an annual basis. Each site visit to the institution is made at faculty or school-level and includes all of the degree course programmes that are to undergo the accreditation process.
Three months prior to the actual site visit, the institution has to submit the following documentation via AQU Catalunya’s on-line platform:
- The self-assessment report, which includes an analysis of the running of the institution and delivery of the degree course programmes that are to undergo the accreditation process. The structure and contents of the report are described in the Guide to the accreditation of recognised Bachelor and Master’s degree programmes.
- A selection of student achievement tests, such as final-year projects (Bachelor courses) and dissertations (Master’s courses), work experience/placement reports and examinations
- Other evidence in support of delivery of courses of studies.
The site visit to the institution is carried out by an external review team, or panel, which ias appointed by AQU Catalunya’s Quality Assurance Commission (CAQ). Generally speaking, the panel consists of a chairperson, one academic, one student, one professional and a secretary.
On completion of the site visit process, the external review panel issues the external review report, or visit outcome report. This report sets out both good practices and enhancement proposals that have been identified, the aim being continuous quality enhancement in the institution.
The administrative process of accreditation starts with the university applying for the accreditation of a degree, which it does by way of the extranet used by public sector organisations in Catalonia.
On the basis of the site-visit report on the institution where the degree course programme that is to undergo accreditation is delivered, the subject-specific review committee (which deals with a specific field of study, i.e. Arts and Humanities, Social and Legal Sciences, Experimental Sciences, Health Sciences, Engineering and Architecture, or doctoral degrees as a whole) issues the programme accreditation report, the conclusion of which will be either favourable or unfavourable, on the basis of four levels: accreditation with excellence, accreditation, accreditation with conditions (prescriptions) and accreditation withheld.
The programme accreditation report is then officially referred to the corresponding national and autonomous authorities in order for the administrative process of programme accreditation to continue.
In the case of programmes that are awarded "accreditation with conditions", an enhancement plan is established by the institution, together the programme coordinators and AQU Catalunya, which has to be implemented within two years. At the end of this period, a progress report has to be submitted for each degree programme with evidence of the results of all enhancement measures put into effect.
Programmes that successfully complete the process successfully according to the levels of "accreditation" and "accreditation with excellence" receive recognition from AQU Catalunya in the form of a certificate and the corresponding quality label.
Quality labels for programme accreditation may be either a:
EXCEL Quality labels (until 31 January 2017)
Sites visits and degrees
RESOLUTION ECO/1902/2014, 31 July, formalising the call for applications for the renewal of accreditation of recognised Bachelor, Master’s and doctoral programmes at higher education institutions in Catalonia